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Manchester, United Kingdom
Tyson is a beer hound and cheese addict living in the beery metropolis paradise known as Manchester
If the people are buying tears, I'll be rich someday, Ma

Sunday, 25 December 2011

Christmas Day Breakfast Beer Tasting: Brewdog Prototype 17

Take 77 lager, Belgian yeast, several old single grain Scotch casks and some local Scottish raspberries. Mix together and you get Brewdog’s take on a Belgium fruit beer. But will it pass the Christmas Day Breakfast Beer test?

Basics: It’s a 33cl bottle, 4.9% and pours a very lively golden hue with a large white head. The aroma is promising; lots of citrus hops and ripe raspberries.

Taste: Medium bodied, the Belgium influence was evident throughout in the form of a slightly sour, dry bitterness that lingered on the palate. No sign of the sugar candy effect that bedevils some Belgium beers. Just plenty of tart raspberries that are matched by a good hop bitterness.

Finish: Dry, slightly sour.

Conclusion: I’ll confess to not knowing what the Scotch casks gave to this brew, but I liked it. It comes down just on the right side of tartness and slipped down very easily.

A good start to the day.

Merry Christmas

In this era of austerity, cuts and enforced reclycling, I present you with last year's season's greetings. Just substitute 2011 for 2010.

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Christmas Eve Breakfast Beer Tasting: Brewdog Scotch Ale

Basics: It’s 7.5% and is brewed with eight different malts and some honey thrown in for good measure. It poured a very dark brown, almost black, with good carbonation and a large tan head. The aroma was a strong belt of chocolate and caramel and a hint of smoke.

Taste: Quite rich. It’s a heady mix of bitter dark chocolate, caramel and toffee as the malts battle for dominance over the hops. There’s definitely some peat in there as well

Finish: Slight honey tinged dryness.

Conclusion: Presumably Brewdog’s take on an American Scotch Ale? It’s different enough to be distinguishable from its traditional counterpart, but it’s not really my cup of Brewdog. Still, if you like honey and malt sweetened beers; this may be the one for you.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

What Price A Pub?

It’s no secret that pubs are having a hard time of it and have been for some time. There are various theories espoused for this, but one partial explanation is the behaviour of the pubcos themselves. Far from nurturing their assets, it seems that they far too often frustrate their licensees and put barriers in their way.

Whilst they stand accused of poor management and restrictive practices; they themselves act as coy and innocent as an Irish dairy maid. But what is the truth? Do they really mislead potential landlords as to the viability and potential of pubs before tying them up in punitive contracts? Or is it a case of caveat emptor?

Well, to try and find out, when the lease of a pub I know well came up for sale, I took myself along to the open day to discover just what Punch were offering. The Railway is located at the tail end of Ramsbottom. Its main asset is its proximity to the East Lancashire Railway which is particularly useful in summer and during special events. However, it’s struggled in recent years and a succession of licensees have failed to improve it.

Punch were, naturally enough I suppose, marketing it as “an exciting business opportunity”. They were asking for an initial investment of £17,953. This included items that I thought they should provide for free. For example, as they have a vested interest in the pub’s success, charging me the princely sum of £1,195 to go on their own training course seemed rather mean.

The annual rent was initially pitched at £16,076. However, it soon emerged that, realistically, this would actually be at least £23,027 as this was the minimum required to join the Punch Buying Club. The PBC is heavily promoted along the lines of offering free of tie options on wine, spirits and minerals, and a tied barrel discount of £100.

But to me, an equal incentive for joining the PBC would simply be access to rights that I would take for granted. You have to pay for the privilege, but it’s the only way to ensure that you are fully covered for repair costs. Interestingly the more you pay, the more rights you seem to acquire. So if you want to be free of the controversial beer flow monitoring system, then you can be; but your rent will be £35,172 a year.

What you don’t get for this large sum is the freedom to buy your cask beer from whom you choose. They don’t really have an explanation for this restriction. This is particularly disappointing given that they do mention the importance of cask ale in their promotional material about the Railway.

What you do get from the PBC is BOGOF on real ale. So you have one line tied to their product list, but the second one can be chosen from their Small Brewers list. Ramsbottom is very competitive in cask ale terms and for £35,172 a year, I would really expect to be able to pick the beers that I want. In the meantime, you were committed to taking 271 barrels a year from them.

But now to the real nitty-gritty. What are your expected annual earnings? Punch estimate £20,150, but were keen to stress that it could be considerably more. For example, they were projecting food turnover at £10,833 which possibly could be increased. Even so, and accepting that their figures aren’t optimistic, the returns for your hard graft seem minimal.

What did I make of the whole experience? They seemed overly enthusiastic as to the pub’s potential and any tricky questions were batted aside. They kept on stressing their professional support system. Not one, not two, but 16 (count ‘em) support teams. But the real impression you are left with is that they blind you with science and then take your money and run.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Brewdog Blitz!

And now for something completely different. They tried, and failed, with Nanny State, but now they’re back with another low vol, high-hop beer.

Basics: It’s 2.8%. It poured deep amber with a medium beige head. The aroma was very promising: plenty of citrus and grapefruit and a little pine.

Not as thin as Nanny State-what could be-but still not very much body. The taste experience goes very quickly from zero to an explosion of rough, almost woody, resinous hops. There’s also a harsh bitterness that’s like biting into a bitter leaf that makes you wish you hadn’t.

Finish: Brief burst of woody bitterness.

Conclusion: Nanny State was just a mass of hops dumped into cold tea. This is much more accomplished with the feel of more than just a gimmick. However, the lack of depth to fulfil the early promise, and an unwelcome aftertaste means the search for a sessionable sub 3% beer continues.

Monday, 12 December 2011

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Brewdog Hops Kill Nazis

Basics: It’s 7.8%. That’s it. No other information is given. I did have this on draught several months ago, but a lot of piss has washed down the urinals since then, so I only have a vague memory of it.

It poured deep amber with low carbonation and a large beige head. The aroma was pungent: floral, spiced and citrus hops.

Silky smooth in body, it belies its strength. Completely unbalanced, hop aficionados will have no trouble picking out Chinook and Centennial as they are there in bucketloads. A sliver of malt tantalises you before the hops batter your tongue into submission. It's like 5am Saint on acid.

Finish: Long and bitter. Leaves you panting for more.

Conclusion: Do hops kill Nazis? Damn freakin’ right they do.

Friday, 9 December 2011

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Meantime Yakima Red

Basics: This is 500ml and only 4% by alcohol; a veritable stripling by breakfast beer standards. It’s unpasteurised and gets its name from the Yakima Valley in Washington where the five different hops in the beer originate.
It’s copper in colour and had reasonable carbonation with a large off-white head. The aroma was a quite pungent mix of pine and grapefruit.
Taste: A light to medium body is packed with a level of hops you don’t usually get in a beer of this strength. Less pine than in the aroma, there is much more grapefruit and zesty citrus flavours. Not much evidence of malt at all. The pine eventually comes through and lies on the tongue.
Finish: Medium bitterness leaves the throat comfortably dry.
Conclusion: If you like your hops, but not your beer, strong, then you’ll enjoy this. Punching well above its weight, this American style IPA really is a breakfast treat

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Blood Money Booze

Giving blood is a worthy cause and a reward in itself. However, there’s a never ending demand and only so many willing donors. How then to encourage more people to donate? A PR company in Leeds thought they had come up with the perfect solution by offering teenagers free booze in return for their blood. Students would register online and, in return for their donations, would receive free samples of the 4% Turbo Shandy.

Sadly, a po-faced NHS spokesperson said that “they do not welcome or condone this sort of promotional activity.” Taking the hint, the promotion has now been dropped, But, apparently, there is a shortage in sperm donations, so...

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Rogue Brutal IPA

Basics: This is a man size 650ml bottle and is 5.8% in strength. The beer is brewed using three varieties of English malt: Pipkin, Cara Vienna and Cara Wheat. The only hop used is Oregon Crystal which is a triploid variety that combines the best of Cascade, Brewers Gold, and Early Green.

It’s amber in colour with an off-white foamy head. The aroma was quite noticeable citrus; pineapple, grapefruit and some sweet malt.

Taste: Medium bodied, it appears very well balanced. The expected hop blast never happens. Not brutal, in the literal sense, at all. There is a good initial hop bite with clear citrus tones, but the biscuit malt soon comes through to tilt the scales. You're left with a quite mellow mix of malt and grapefruit.

Finish: Short blast of medium dryness.

Conclusion: An accomplished piece of complex brewing. Nicely balanced and easy to drink, this is a class act.

Monday, 5 December 2011

Two Out For The Count?

In less than seven days, doubt has been cast on the future of two of Bury’s pubs. In Ramsbottom, the onetime Good Beer Guide stalwart and corner pin of the Rammy crawl, the Good Samaritan, has been having extensive renovation work. And, despite earlier soundings suggesting a positive future, the reality looks somewhat different.

In a planning application to Bury Council, the Glasgow based owners have signalled their intent for the Peel Brow premises. And that is to operate it as a restaurant. Submitted plans signify toilets and kitchen downstairs and main dining on the ground floor. The previously private upstairs area is to accommodate overflow seating and a function room.

Meanwhile, the future looks even grimmer for the Bird I’Th Hand on Manchester Road. Another ex GBG pub, this mid-terrace boozer has been ordered to remain closed by the local authority licensing committee.

Originally closed voluntarily by Admiral Taverns after a number of complaints, the premises licence has now been withdrawn after an intervention by the police. This means that the pubco will have to reapply-basically start from scratch-if it wants to reopen the pub.

Sadly, history tells us that this is unlikely and it’s much more likely that Admiral will cut its losses. The terraced boozer is a dying breed; what with changing drinking patterns and new neighbours much less tolerant than in the past to have a public house as a neighbour.

What is frustrating in cases such as the BIH is that the licensing committee seems much less disposed to them than their town centre rivals. Community locals are quickly judged and dealt with harshly. Meanwhile, town centre licensed premises are given chance after chance. It’s almost as if they make more money for the authority?

British Guild Beer Writers Awards & Camden Brewery

London is a strange town. Or so the Jam said way back in 1979. And indeed it is. However, despite the early closing, congestion and lack of decent pizza, there are actually people who work and live there. And everyone from the Worshipful Company of Stationers and Newspaper Makers to the British Guild of Beer Writers hold their piss-ups there.

So it was once again that I found myself wandering the lonely, mean streets of the Big Smoky with nothing in my pockets but hope and fortitude. Now, one has to make careful preparation before attending a function such as the BGBW awards. And, being one for correct form, I did my bit by having a little tour of the capital’s watering holes.

Conveniently, the Euston Cider Tap had just opened the previous week and I was the first in on that day. The very helpful barman kept me company until I was joined by some chirpy cockney sparrows newly arrived from Manchester. After sampling sparkling, still and some Normandy cider, the bonding was complete and I was soon telling them to, affectionately, "fack off, you slag."

But man cannot live by cider alone. I know. I’ve tried. So it was on to the main event.

British Guild Beer Writers Awards

But first things first. How did an old soak like me blag his way into the BGBW’s knees up? Well, like Garth Brooks, I have friends in low places... But obviously they couldn’t help me, so I had to go to the top.The very top. No problem, said Tandleman. Just mention my name.

So, my cunning plan was to doff my cap and present myself to the hotel saying Tandleman had sent me. And it worked. They welcomed me with open arms and I was ushered into the austere company of the great and the good. Ok, I had to don a waiter’s disguise and dish out amuse-bouches, but it got me in.

It was an interesting evening. Meeting people you only know from posters on your walls can often be intimidating, but everyone was too polite to tell me to fack off. And Jeff Pickthall never even mentioned sparklers once. There was a lively discussion on the relevance of cask, but all taken in good fun.

And, of course, there were winners to be announced. All deserved, no doubt, but sadly my prediction that Hardknott Sooty would sweep the board came to nought. That’s the last time I go into Ladbrokes pissed.

Best beers of the evening: Kernel (Brewer of the Year winner) and Wadworth Orange Peel. There was, naturally, more supping to be done afterwards, before the mad rush for takeout freebies began. The remaining hardcore, led by the rather marvellous Marverine Cole, moved the party downstairs to the ChinoLatino bar where fun was to be had until the wee small hours.

Staggering alongside the Thames later, I eventually remembered this was London. No wonder Tesco and the 24hr petrol station were closed. No chance of pizza or curry here. Dejectedly I returned to my abode. But my spirits quickly soared when I realised that one advantage of staying in a proper hotel was being able to acquire a Margherita at 0245. Well done to the Park Plaza.

Camden Town Brewery

Friday saw me reminded why I never get buses in London. Get a bus to Liverpool St Station, says Tandleman. A great idea-if you want time to grow a beard. Otherwise, forget it. And that was only the beginning of our travel woes.

However, we eventually reached our destination: the Camden Town Brewery. Here award-winning Mark Dredge, who I’d met the night before, was eager to show us his new toy. And very impressive it was too.

I’d imagined him brewing in a bathtub over a Camden pet shop. But no, this was state of the art stuff engineered and fitted by Germans. Whether you want the Sudetenland annexed or a state of the art brewery, those German lads will sort you out.

The Dredgester (or Dredgeinator-he’s still tweaking his nickname) turned out to be a great host. And we were soon joined by bloggers Mark from Beer Birra, Beer and Fletch from Real Ale Reviews.

A very jolly time ensued with Tandleman even boasting about just how much keg he’s drunk over the years. Just don’t tell the CAMRA secret police. We all took a shine to the nanokeg that fits in your backpack; you never need be without a drink again. Tandleman was sorely tempted to ring Mrs T to ask if they could adopt it.

What can be said about the beer other than it was excellent? Well, it’s filtered but unpasteurised. We even got to try their new Stout made with Northdown hops. And whilst not a fan of nitrokeg Stouts, their version clearly puts Guinness to shame and will do well, I’ve no doubt.

Their lager was light and refreshing but, even though it’s currently being tweaked, the Camden Pale was my favourite of the early sampling. However, we really were spoilt for choice with a hefe weizen making an appearance and a superb Belgian style Witbier.

A great afternoon out and thanks to Mark for arranging it and Mark(2) and Fletch for their company.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Brewdog Chaos

Basics: It’s 330ml and 7.1%. It poured clear amber with good carbonation and a large, foamy, off-white head. The aroma was pungent pine and tropical fruit.

Light-medium bodied. Unlike the aroma, there is a blast of tropical fruit flavours first and then the pine resin kicks in. There’s a good, if not massive, amount of grapefruit bitterness that comes through to wash over the tongue.

Finish: Surprisingly smooth at first, but leaves a medium hop bitter aftertaste.

Conclusion: A variation on Punk IPA that is easy drinking considering its strength, but lacks the hop crunch that Punk can deliver.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Islay Saligo Ale

This beer is named after Saligo Bay which lies on the west coast of Islay.

Basics: It’s 500ml, 4.4% and, once again, bottle-conditioned. It’s made with pale, lager, and wheat malts and a combination of Goldings and Brambling Cross hops. Light gold in colour, but not clear, it had good carbonation and a frothy off-white head. The aroma was bubblegum and a little spice.

Taste: Light on the palate, there was some malt and a little bitterness present. However, the main flavour was slightly subdued bubblegum.

Finish: Mild. Slight spiced bubblegum aftertaste.

Conclusion: Not bad and could be quite refreshing if served chilled. Although not advertised as such, the bubblegum flavour is pronounced enough to make it a wheat beer in my eyes.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Crouch Vale Yakima Gold

As I said yesterday, Amarillo is a great hop, and one of my favourites. Today I thought I would put Crouch Vale’s offering to the breakfast beer challenge.

Basics: This is bottle 191 out of a limited run of 500. It’s 500ml and a session strength 4.2%. Quite unusually for a beer of that strength, it’s also bottle-conditioned. It poured a very pale gold with plenty of carbonation and a slow forming off-white head. The aroma was light citrus tones and a touch of spice.

Taste: A very smooth mouthfeel with a moderate, but pleasant, citrus kick. All you would expect-grapefruit, lemon etc combined with a slight biscuit undertone. I was worried that this might be too thin, but it just errs on the right side.

Finish: Quite smooth with just enough citrus edge to keep you happy.

Conclusion: Not a hop monster, but an accomplished use of Amarillo in a relatively low ABV beer. Very pleasantly refreshing; it proves good bottle-conditioned beers can be achieved without pumping up the volume.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Stringers IPA

Stringers are from Ulverston, Cumbria, and apparently all their electricity comes from renewable sources.

Basics: It’s a 500ml bottle and is 5.5% by alcohol. I like the label design: clean and unfussy, it tells you all you need to know. It poured a clear orange-gold colour with good carbonation and a healthy, foamy head. The aroma was light marmalade, some sweet malt and spicy hop.

Taste: Medium bodied, the mouthfeel appears very smooth before the hop flavour bursts out. Grapefruit and lemon come to the fore leading to a tangy, dry hop explosion on the tongue.

Finish: A sharp, lingering dry bitterness with a hint of lemon.

This is a crisp, very accomplished, IPA. Amarillo is a fantastic hop when used correctly-as here-and the result is a thirst quenching and very moreish breakfast beer.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Red Hot World Buffet

It’s not often that this column gives out relationship advice, even though, in my mind, I see it as the cheese and beer drinkers’ equivalent of Dear Deidre. But call me Marjorie Proops-and people often do-on this occasion, I’m going to give out some advice that could prove critical in saving your relationship.

We’re all familiar with the problem. It’s that time of year again when you’re obliged to perform your conjugal duty and take the other half out for a meal. She’s sussed out Wetherspoons isn’t a restaurant and the McDonalds drive-through just won’t cut it anymore. But, never fear, salvation is at hand.

Yes, it’s now possible for you to offer them the cuisine of the world. English? Indian? Italian? No problem. Thanks to the Red Hot World Buffet, you can offer them no less than a choice of seven cuisines and 300 dishes. All for the princely sum of £7.99 during the day. Just remember that drinks are pricey, so play the health card and opt for the free water.

But hold on, I know what you’re thinking. What if she refuses to take time off work and insists on the evening session at £13.99? Well in these modern times, it’s quite permissible for the ladies to take the initiative and take you out. Failing that, an appeal to their feminist side should see them going at least Dutch.

The beauty of this setup is that it has such wide appeal. No matter who your significant/transgender other is. You can even bring the family-just remember the drinks trap. And it’s even open on Christmas Day; thus giving those of us who usually spend it slumped under a table in Wetherspoons another dining option.

World cuisine buffets. Like garlic bread, they are the future.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Bury Beer Festival

This weekend saw the third annual Bury Beer Festival hosted by the Met. This year’s format saw the main hall divided between individual exhibitors-local brewers and the Shoulder of Mutton pub, whilst the other beers were shared amongst the Met’s various internal bars.

All in all there were about 100 beers, ciders, and perries. The main hall was the centre of much early attention as it was the first opportunity for many people to sample the wares of Bury’s latest brewery, Brightside. They had a new beer, the Beast (3.8%) on show, as did Outstanding with the aptly named Selling Out.

Elsewhere, Leyden caused a stir by having a beer, Brewer’s Gold, which was adjudged to be actually ok, and Greenmill didn’t disappoint by being disappointing. The best newcomer was undoubtedly Nook Blonde (4.5%) brewed by the Nook Brewhouse in Holmfirth. It was a zesty English style wheat beer with a citrus twist.

Overall, though, the micro brewers were put in the shade by the likes of Adnams and Dark Star. And it’s hard to see past Oakham Citra, despite being served by gravity, as beer of the festival. However, the Jessica Jane-Clement prize must go to Dunham Massey for their 6% IPA which tasted like it was knocked up in a garden shed using a Shepherd Neame recipe.

Friday, 18 November 2011

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Odell IPA

Time to fire up the countdown to the weekend with a little IPA action.

Basics: Well regarded in many circles, this is a 7%, 60 IBU, IPA that has been given an American twist by the Odell Brewing Company from Fort Collins, Colorado. It poured a nice golden-orange with a large white head. There was a distinct and appealing aroma of pine and citrus.
Taste: Surprisingly not as immediately powerful as the aroma might suggest. Light-medium bodied, the subtle malt undertone perfectly complements the pine and zesty tropical fruit flavours. Bitterness builds to a sharp, but not overwhelming level.
Finish: Dry and lingering.
Conclusion: Fully deserving of its reputation; this is an expertly brewed beer that balances its flavours perfectly. Very moreish in nature, it drinks less than its actual strength.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

The Kimberley Club

The Kimberley Workingmen’s Club in Stacksteads, Rossendale is the stuff of legend. Few, outside of those interested in such things, have heard of it and fewer still have visited it. Even many locals aren’t aware of its location and yet internet forums are full of people willing to travel across the country to visit a genuine slice of social history.
Established in 1897, the KMC started out as an afterhours drinking venue for quarry workers. Legend has it that it was carried down into the valley on poles. There are various theories about its South African connections-there is a Kimberley Street close by, but what we do know is that surprisingly little has changed since those early days.

Once you have got up the steep hill, over the dirt track and through the gate; you are confronted with two very small rooms. There’s probably just enough room to squeeze all 36 members in. This helps to explain why visitation is strictly by invitation only. We were privileged to enjoy a special Sunday opening. Normal hours are Tues. Thurs and Fri after 9.30pm.
When you are sat in the inner sanctum with the locals (and their dogs), you really are transported back in time. In fact, time becomes meaningless as you sup under the light of the single gas light. Naturally there’s no electricity-the vacuum cleaner is oil powered and the only nod to food is a packet of nuts. They can’t keep crisps, they’d get too damp.
However, some modern elements are present. They received planning permission to build toilets in 1934, but actually only got round to building them in 1999. Prior to that, it was "ladies use the short grass and gents use the long grass".
They also do now have (a few) bottles of lager for anyone from outside of the valley. Of course, there are no handpumps, so all the beer is brought up from the cellar. Taylor’s Dark Mild and Best Bitter are the choices, and I have to say I was impressed with how well they kept them. £1.50 for the Bitter may have the £5-a-pint craft beer aficionados spluttering into their Bollinger, but I didn’t hear many complaints.
A great day out and thanks to the Kimberley and Uncle Albert for arranging it.  

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Saltaire & Shipley

Saltaire is a part of Shipley in West Yorkshire and is famous for its model village that is an UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s named after mill owner Sir Titus Salt, whose former mill complex is now home to a large David Hockney collection. I’ve been and it’s very nice, but today the mention of Saltaire brings up thoughts of beer (frankly, most things do) and Saltaire Brewery.

The brewery was founded in 2005 and has produced a wide range of award-winning beers including their Triple Chocolate and, one of my favourites, South Island Pale. Intriguingly located in a Victorian building that once housed the generators for the Shipley trams, it’s been on the Tyson visit wish list for awhile.

The brewhouse is a 20 barrel affair and has a mezzanine bar that was soon full of thirsty punters. It was a record attendance-nearly 40-and included most, if not all, of the usual suspects: The Whitefield Holts Bandit, Pythagoras, Archimedes, Uncle Albert, the Wallsend Wonder, Jan & Dean, and even Moaning Myrtle-for a short time. All watched over by the timekeeper’s timekeeper, Stopwatch Sid.

A grand drinking session followed with all the beers tried being in excellent condition. This is not surprising as owner and head brewer Tony Gartland is passionate about beer and clearly knows his stuff. Certainly his brewery talk had enough meat on it to keep us professional brewery visitors entertained. Oh, and he’s a sparkler advocate, so you sparkler denialists can blow one off.

It was difficult to leave the brewery. Top notch beer served at only £2 a pint? Slightly embarrassing for some breweries nearer home that charge considerably more for considerably less satisfying beer. But Shipley itself has quite a bit to offer with several GBG pubs in the area. So after thanking Tony and his staff, take our leave we did.

Then followed a leisurely crawl from the Junction (not so good JHB) to the Shipley Pride (Salamander) and the Victoria, where I enjoyed some excellent Castle Rock. Of course, the famous Fannys was visited (Phoenix) where the barmaids won the award for best of the day. Ask Beth nicely and she may show you her tattoo.

It was then back to the Shipley to stock up on Acorn Blonde before our chauffeur driven transport whisked us away. A pint or more was then had in Idle before we had to finally say goodbye to Yorkshire. After a long and winding trip back to Bury, a hardy few staggered into the Art to finish the night, and themselves, off.

Thanks to Tony & crew for the beer and grub, and for a very enjoyable visit.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Hofbräu Berlin

Fans of Munch and its legendary Hofbräuhaus may get a surprise on their next visit to Berlin. For last Friday saw the opening of Hofbräu Berlin. This, the third in a franchise-there are already two Hofbräuhausers in Hamburg, hopes to offer Berliners and any curious tourists a little slice of Bavaria.

Except, as befitting any homage to the original Hofbräuhaus, it’s anything but little. What they have done is create Europe’s largest beer hall. 6000 square metres is spread over three floors and incorporates some 2 kilometres of benching to seat 2,500 punters.

Despite the legal wrangling that forced a change of name and some local doubts as to what a Hamburger is doing involved; general manager Björn Schwarz is confident it will be a success. His figures tell him that there are plenty of Berliners ready to eat 120 tons of pork shank, 25 tons of the white sausage called Weißwurst, and drink a million litres of beer per year.

And if they don’t? Well its location at the heart of Alexanderplatz should guarantee that there are enough tourists to pick up the slack. But the true Hofbräuhaus is about more than just food and drink. So its Berlin clone offers a stage on each floor where yodelers, alphorn performers and glockenspiel players will entertain customers.

To complete the Munich experience, Schwartz says: “customers are encouraged to link arms and sway” in true Bavarian style. How the cosmopolitan Berliners will take to all this Bavarian jollity is anyone’s guess, but I suspect they may well enjoy the experience.

Monday, 31 October 2011


Booths are the rather posh supermarket chain so beloved by the posh folk of the Fylde coast. Founded in 1847 in Blackpool, the company is still run by the Booth family and they now have 26 stores. Their emphasis is on locality and freshness-they are partners with Slow Food UK; thus marking them out against the other major chains. 

Traditionally they’ve been found in deepest Lancashire and Cumbria-places you either don’t want to go to or can’t get to easily. Now they have opened a store in that cradle of civilisation: Salford. Hooray. You see, I like Booths. They actually sell things I want to buy. Unlike the shit that Tesco seems to mainly fill its shelves with.
Being famous for their range of bread, beer and cheese; all a beerhound needs to live, I naturally felt obliged to pay the new store a visit. It’s in the funky (i.e. posh) MediaCityUK which, naturally, is at the terminus of the MediaCityUK tram line. This is like a Salford version of the DLR, but not quite as good, obviously.
You can tell they’re catering for the BBC personnel who are missing London, though, as the stops have real time updates. Something the peasants on the Bury line can only dream of. Anyway, the store is only a few minutes’ walk from the tram stop and is laid out over two floors.

Downstairs is the fresh food: bread, fishmongers, butchers, cheesemongers etc. There is also hot food available as well. Upstairs is where the real treasure lies. Lots and lots of beer. And cider as well. Some interesting bottles here and surprisingly reasonably priced as well. Many were £1.49 and Adnams Lighthouse was only £1.09 a bottle.

So although my wallet will feel the pain, it’s a warm welcome to Booths@MediaCityUK.

Booths can be found at The Garage, Red, MediaCityUK, Salford, M50 2BS. Yes, it is a weird address.

Sunday, 30 October 2011

The One Stop No Shop

As regular readers (and there are some) will know, one of my pet hates is the overzealous shop assistant who demands proof of age when all sense and logic dictates there is no need. Several cases have been highlighted on this blog, but the latest example is a real doozy.

Diane Taylor wanted to buy her son a bottle of whisky. So she popped into a local One Stop Shop to do so. However, she was refused the sale on the grounds that she couldn’t produce any photo ID as proof of age. Considering the great-grandmother is-and I hope she won’t mind me saying this-no longer in the first flush of youth; this is somewhat of a farce.

Mrs Taylor is in fact 92. Yes, 92. And, despite producing a blood donor card and her bus pass, the witless zombie of an assistant refused to budge. As she herself put it later:”No one can convince me that I look under 25-I’ll only take 78 at a push”.

A One Stop Shop spokesman later apologised, but said staff cannot sell alcohol without seeing proof of age. What? If a 92 year great-grandmother standing in front of you isn’t proof of age, then I don’t know what is.

And what was the outcome of all this? Mrs Taylor simply went and bought her bottle elsewhere. Well done One Stop Shop. I hereby award you the title of Jobsworth of the Week.

Saturday, 29 October 2011

SIBA Great Northern Beer Festival

The second SIBA Great Northern Beer Festival is well under way and will be reaching its climax today. Last year’s event was, frankly, a bit of a damp squib with too little publicity and too much focus on the appearance of Hugh & Oz. The result was less than satisfactory for all concerned.

This year’s event should prove a lot better. The festival is at the Mercure (ex Ramada) Piccadilly which, for my money, is a better venue location and facilities wise. The publicity level was ramped up and numbers on the opening night were up on last year. Certainly the choice is unrivalled; 64 beers on handpump and with sparkler-what more could you want?
Sadly, there was some disappointment on the Thursday evening as several beers performed under par. Earlier favourites such as Allgates Double Citra soon disappeared and fans of hoppy beer were left somewhat flummoxed. However, a late surge did hold out some hope for future sessions (hopefully today) with Saltaire Stateside IPA being in particularly good form.

Alas, as per last year, I didn’t get any pictures of Tandleman working-I’m not that quick. However, I did get to have an enjoyable drink and a chat with Erlangernick, and the mighty Hardknott Sooty who was accompanied by his two handlers, Dave and Anne.

Congratulations to Hawkshead for winning the champion beer trophy with their Windermere Pale. A well deserved win for an incredible beer.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

The Oast House

It’s often been said that what Manchester lacks is a Kentish oast house. Maybe not by me. Or you. But someone must have thought it was needed because that’s what we’ve now got. An oast house. From Kent. In return, I believe, the good people of Kent got an IOU signed by Carlos Tevez.

Oh, and before we go any further, for those not familiar with the vernacular, an oast house is somewhere where hops are dried. Like they have in Kent. This one has apparently been shipped brick by brick, via Ireland, to Spinningfields.

Spinningfields is the ultra modern business, retail and residential development that lies between Manchester Deansgate and the River Irwell. What it has been lacking is decent leisure facilities and, of course, what I mean by that is a decent pub. That is where the oast house, from Kent, comes in.

The Oast House is the latest innovation from the Living Ventures Group who own the nearby Alchemist bar. Its design is very different to anything nearby or elsewhere for that matter and, indeed, came in for some controversy for being so. But I think they must be applauded for their innovation.

The Oast House has something of the Swiss chalet about it and there almost seemed a holiday vibe inside. This being only the second day of opening, it was rammed full of people eager to try the new kid on the block. Last night was the launch night and the place was full of champagne swigging celebrities such as Ryan Giggs and Eddie, the eager, legal beagle.

There seems to be a good range of drinks available including American and German beers. There are also four cask ales available via tap on the back wall. I would have preferred them to be more prominently displayed; via handpump on the lengthy bar, but this style of dispense almost seems du jour in the modern bar. Pints are around the £3.30 mark, but the Jaipur I’ve been on is £4 a pint.

An interesting and welcome addition to the Manchester scene. As usual, sustained quality will be the ultimate test.

An unusual feature is the outside kitchen. They wanted one, but there wasn't room inside, hence the separate structure. It's Manchester's first external kitchen, and could possinly be be the country's first permanent outdoor kitchen.